B.C. Flood Strategy – A good plan on paper

March 26, 2024

By: Lina Azeez

The provincial government recently released its much-anticipated and long-overdue B.C. Flood Strategy. With increasingly unpredictable weather patterns fueled by the changing climate, it arrives none too soon.

The strategy incorporates much of what we at Watershed Watch Salmon Society have been advocating for: nature-based solutions for building greater resiliency that will have the added benefit of restoring fish habitat; incorporation of First Nations knowledge; regional decision-making on region-specific planning; and improved understanding of flood risks. 

What’s missing is the stable funding to make it happen.

Lina Azeez

“All of the principles outlined in the B.C. Flood Strategy are solid, effective means of increasing our flood resilience and keeping communities safe. A lot of good work went into developing this strategy. But with no long-term, dedicated funding attached and no clear plan for implementation, the strategy falls short of what we needed,” says Lina Azeez, the Habitats Program Director for Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “It’s a good plan on paper that – as yet – has no means of becoming reality on the ground.”

The provincial announcement of the strategy the day before World Water Day accompanied the re-announcement of $39 million for projects of the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund. These projects include a dike rehabilitation in Richmond; decommissioning and repairs to the Holland Creek weirs in Ladysmith; slope stabilization and creek floodplain mapping in Langley Township; and two restoration projects that will kickstart a larger watershed restoration project in the Kootenay Regional District. All of them great projects, but none addressing the larger systemic issues clearly identified in the Flood Strategy. 

“Unfortunately, yesterday’s announcement seemed to confirm the status quo, with communities competing to access scarce dollars for incredibly important flood resiliency work,” says the Lower Fraser Floodplains Coalition, of which Watershed Watch is a founding member.  

Fraser Valley, Nov 2021

For two years the Coalitions has brought First Nations, regional and local governments together to coordinate efforts to improve flood resilience following the disastrous 2021 flooding that devastated the region.

A lot of thought went into this strategy but a strategy is only as good as its implementation, says Gillian Fuss, Program Manager at the Emergency Planning Secretariat, another founding member of the LFFC. 

“We appreciate that the Strategy aims for long-term resilience, but we note there are also immediate actions such as flood risk assessments, flood modeling, and regional planning that are particularly important to First Nations communities, and these actions need to proceed without delay.”

Nathan Cullen, the provincial minister for Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, promised an end to “piecemeal approaches.” We don’t see it here.

The province also announced one-time funding for several specific projects, including $14 million to replace the Cowichan Lake weir. The most significant was $80 million for the Agricultural Water Infrastructure Program to improve irrigation and water storage. What this looks like, we don’t know. It might mean literal water tanks to store water, but if we think at the watershed scale, it could mean wetlands, intact forests, and healthy ecosystems – a more holistic approach.

The B.C. Watershed Security Coalition, of which Watershed Watch is also a member, says it is encouraging that the province recognizes the urgency of these issues. But this group, too, finds these announcements fall short.

Streams, rivers and lakes are vital to our economy and ecosystems but we continue to degrade watersheds in many regions, says Coree Tull, chairperson.

“With low snowpack and a potentially devastating drought approaching, we need our provincial and federal governments working together to strengthen our watershed security, not just for this year, but for the future climate-fueled disasters we know are coming.” 

Fish-unfriendly flood gates. Dave Scott

The watershed coalition has called for local watershed boards and improved assessment and monitoring of the state of B.C. rivers, lakes and aquifers, among other things.

B.C. is decades behind, says Kat Hartwig, executive director of Living Lakes Canada, another member of the coalition. The province is trapped in a costly, reactionary cycle, she says. 

“We will all pay the price unless we rapidly pull back on activities that damage our watersheds and scale up the initiatives that make our watersheds stronger.”

B.C. Flood Strategy: From Flood Risk to Resilience in B.C.: Flood Strategy (gov.bc.ca)

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B.C. Flood Strategy – A good plan on paper

March 26, 2024

By: Lina Azeez

The provincial government recently released its much-anticipated and long-overdue B.C. Flood Strategy. With increasingly unpredictable weather patterns fueled by the changing climate, it arrives none too soon.

The strategy incorporates much of what we at Watershed Watch Salmon Society have been advocating for: nature-based solutions for building greater resiliency that will have the added benefit of restoring fish habitat; incorporation of First Nations knowledge; regional decision-making on region-specific planning; and improved understanding of flood risks. 

What’s missing is the stable funding to make it happen.

Lina Azeez

“All of the principles outlined in the B.C. Flood Strategy are solid, effective means of increasing our flood resilience and keeping communities safe. A lot of good work went into developing this strategy. But with no long-term, dedicated funding attached and no clear plan for implementation, the strategy falls short of what we needed,” says Lina Azeez, the Habitats Program Director for Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “It’s a good plan on paper that – as yet – has no means of becoming reality on the ground.”

The provincial announcement of the strategy the day before World Water Day accompanied the re-announcement of $39 million for projects of the Community Emergency Preparedness Fund. These projects include a dike rehabilitation in Richmond; decommissioning and repairs to the Holland Creek weirs in Ladysmith; slope stabilization and creek floodplain mapping in Langley Township; and two restoration projects that will kickstart a larger watershed restoration project in the Kootenay Regional District. All of them great projects, but none addressing the larger systemic issues clearly identified in the Flood Strategy. 

“Unfortunately, yesterday’s announcement seemed to confirm the status quo, with communities competing to access scarce dollars for incredibly important flood resiliency work,” says the Lower Fraser Floodplains Coalition, of which Watershed Watch is a founding member.  

Fraser Valley, Nov 2021

For two years the Coalitions has brought First Nations, regional and local governments together to coordinate efforts to improve flood resilience following the disastrous 2021 flooding that devastated the region.

A lot of thought went into this strategy but a strategy is only as good as its implementation, says Gillian Fuss, Program Manager at the Emergency Planning Secretariat, another founding member of the LFFC. 

“We appreciate that the Strategy aims for long-term resilience, but we note there are also immediate actions such as flood risk assessments, flood modeling, and regional planning that are particularly important to First Nations communities, and these actions need to proceed without delay.”

Nathan Cullen, the provincial minister for Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, promised an end to “piecemeal approaches.” We don’t see it here.

The province also announced one-time funding for several specific projects, including $14 million to replace the Cowichan Lake weir. The most significant was $80 million for the Agricultural Water Infrastructure Program to improve irrigation and water storage. What this looks like, we don’t know. It might mean literal water tanks to store water, but if we think at the watershed scale, it could mean wetlands, intact forests, and healthy ecosystems – a more holistic approach.

The B.C. Watershed Security Coalition, of which Watershed Watch is also a member, says it is encouraging that the province recognizes the urgency of these issues. But this group, too, finds these announcements fall short.

Streams, rivers and lakes are vital to our economy and ecosystems but we continue to degrade watersheds in many regions, says Coree Tull, chairperson.

“With low snowpack and a potentially devastating drought approaching, we need our provincial and federal governments working together to strengthen our watershed security, not just for this year, but for the future climate-fueled disasters we know are coming.” 

Fish-unfriendly flood gates. Dave Scott

The watershed coalition has called for local watershed boards and improved assessment and monitoring of the state of B.C. rivers, lakes and aquifers, among other things.

B.C. is decades behind, says Kat Hartwig, executive director of Living Lakes Canada, another member of the coalition. The province is trapped in a costly, reactionary cycle, she says. 

“We will all pay the price unless we rapidly pull back on activities that damage our watersheds and scale up the initiatives that make our watersheds stronger.”

B.C. Flood Strategy: From Flood Risk to Resilience in B.C.: Flood Strategy (gov.bc.ca)

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One Comment

  1. David Pacey March 28, 2024 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    From a retired Foresters perspective who has worked and played in the woods and Mtns for 7 decades plus, the very worst deficiency in our creeks and rivers in relation to flooding is a two fold problem

    We have stopped removing debris from the river bottoms ; the silt; the logs; the boulders which results in drastically reduced carrying capacity for even normal flow volumes

    Second. We have Not maintained dykes nor have we raised them to run parcelled with the silt build up so again. The carrying capacity is compromised again and we will continue to have serious flooding of urban areas and farmlands

    We know we build on flood plains. Grand Forks got caught hugely and is now NOT allowing rebuilds on the flood plain !

    Stop the flooding
    One arrow in the quiver is: dredge the creeks and streams. The other arrow. Take that debris and put it on the dykes
    Result will be Quadrupling the carrying capacity

    This from a retired working now retired Forest Engineer here in BC

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